I am grateful to Conor McGinn for securing the debate and for outlining so comprehensively the importance of glass to the UK. I welcome the opportunity to address the priorities and challenges faced by the UK glass sector, and to explain what the Government have done, and will do in the future, to support it. As the Energy Minister, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Department recognises the value of glass manufacturers, and takes their concerns very seriously.
In his excellent speech, the hon. Gentleman pointed out that British-made glass is renowned around the world. I always love a good bit of history, and he took us back to 1773 and the foundation of the British glass industry—indeed, probably the world glass industry—at Ravenhead. Glass has of course been around for centuries, but that was when it was turned into an industry. The hon. Gentleman told us about the 3.5 million tonnes that are produced each year and the 6,000 people employed directly in the industry, but he also talked about the much wider impact of the sector. As a former Exports Minister and a former Investment Minister, I know that it is industries of this kind that will enable global Britain to compete on the world stage and will continue to attract foreign direct investment, which plays such an important role in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency.
Let me now deal with a few of the points that the hon. Gentleman raised. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs leads on glass recycling and direct deposit schemes, but I will pass his comments on. DEFRA has undertaken extensive engagement with the glass sector, and will do so in the future. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that the Government want to make recycling as easy and efficient as possible, but we need to ensure that that does not include any perverse incentives, or any element that is likely to damage some of our key industries.
The subject of energy-intensive industries will constitute the main part of my response, but I was pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman report that energy efficiency is up 50% in glass furnaces. That is an encouraging sign as we move towards net zero. Obviously some industries will be harder to decarbonise than others, but it is good to hear that glass has made significant progress in that regard.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned HyNet North West. I was delighted to visit some of the participants in the HyNet North West carbon capture, utilisation and storage cluster last autumn. I circled near the hon. Gentleman’s constituency: I was in Runcorn and Warrington. We are moving forward with HyNet in a very good place.